Index Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Australia Esperance Auxiliary (Inc)
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Emergency Evacuation Stories
    
     1: Note Of Thanks
     2: Gus’s Story
     3: Christmas Flight
     4: Dizzy
     5: Agonizing Pain 350km from Help
     6:
Ann Blakely’s Memoirs
     7: Life Member - The first bestowed

Note of Thanks: From Neil & Jean McCallum

In August this year Neil and I were enjoying an eleven day Kimberley Cruise from Darwin to Broome aboard the APT Caledonian Sky when Neil became unwell. We thought that he had contracted a Shipboard Cold but after a few days it became evident that his condition was more serious.

Midway through the Cruise he was visited by the Ship's Doctor, who was from Russia and spoke broken English. She was a very experienced Doctor having been on some thirty cruises. The morning following her initial visit (Day six of our cruise) she astounded us by saying that we would be evacuated by Helicopter to Truscott Airbase in Northern Western Australia. Neil had Pneumonia.

The Captain and Tour Leader came to our cabin and amidst our protests of SURELY NOT, calmly told us that once the Doctor has spoken it was out of their hands and that Canberra were in charge now.

We hastily packed and went by Zodiac to a sandy beach nearby, where a Puma Helicopter landed and we were transferred very swiftly. Neil's condition was deteriorating and we knew for sure that the Doctor had made the correct decision. On board was a Pilot, Engineer and a Paramedic. As we flew towards Truscott I thought that I was seeing magnificent scenery which was rarely seen by the general public while Neil was in the care of a highly trained, dedicated professional.

Truscott Airbase services the Oil and Gas fields and is accessible only by Helicopter or fixed wing plane. Once there Neil was stabilised I began to repack our holiday clothes into two backpacks. I was assured that eventually our cases would be returned to Esperance and they were.

In a few hours the RFDS plane arrived and we were loaded on board. Dusk was approaching and the Pilot was very near to his allotted flying hours so every minute counted. Everyone at the Base was helpful and courteous.

We arrived at Derby Hospital about 8.00pm on a Saturday night. Derby Emergency Department is a very busy place on a Saturday night but we were cared for very well. At 1.00am Neil was wheeled into our Private Room which contained a folder bed for me. We had had a very long day but were very thankful to be together in the care of experienced staff.

Derby Hospital staff are very competent in dealing with Pneumonia. We could not have been in better hands and could speak highly enough of our treatment.

After four days Neil was sufficiently recovered to travel by car to Broome where after an overnight stay we flew to Perth and onto Esperance.

We cannot speak highly enough of our care from the time the Doctor visited us on the Ship until we arrived back at our home.
Our advice to any traveller is always have Travel Insurance and support the RFDS.

Gus’s Story
In March 2010 the big bonfire was built on the farm where Gus’s family was living. There’s nothing quite like a barbecue and sitting around a big fire. Friends came with their children to join in the fun and a good time was had by all. The fire had died down, and it was time to put children and their parents to bed. The next morning Gus, who was five at the time, got up very early to see what had become of the bonfire. All that was left was a large outline of the former bonfire covered with harmless looking white ash.

It was so tempting for this little boy and he waded into the fluffy ash after that elusive spiral of smoke in the middle still coming from the smouldering embers. He was not to know that. Half way through his feet and legs were burning. He realised he couldn’t go back the way he came in, then he fell forward and his hands and arms were burnt. He remembers that he almost fell backwards. He found it very hard to talk about that part. Somehow Gus managed to get to the other side, and he crawled along the ground past the chook run back to the house which was about 50m away. He had plunged his hands into the dog’s water, and collapsed on the steps.

My daughter Sally, Gus’s mother, awoke to strange noises sounding like cat screeches coming from outside. When she opened the front door there was Gus sitting on the steps. The skin on his hands and feet had been burnt off. She remembers thinking how shiny they were, like they had been dipped in melted butter (her words). He was a mess. Into a bath of water he went which was left from the night before. On a farm there wasn’t water to waste, so having the bath already full of water was good. She called the local ambulance and after advice bundled everyone into the car, Gus covered with towels. They needed to drive to Jerramungup to meet the ambulance and get help for Gus immediately.

The destination for the ambulance for assessment of Gus’s burns was Albany Hospital. Sally had called to let us know what had happened. We were in Kalgoorlie for the weekend, but we packed up and returned to Esperance so we could be closer for when we were needed. I phoned my sister Jan to let her know and her response was that her friends were with the RFDS. The pilot’s name was Terry Richardson and his wife Gay was a nurse who also worked for the RFDS. My sister got onto them straight away knowing Terry could be on duty. After telling him what had happened she said “it’s my sister’s daughter and grandson so you look after them”. How good it was for her to know that he was on duty.

Terry flew the RFDS plane down to pick them up and get them to Perth as soon as possible. Sally remembers being at the airport in Albany and the RFDS pilot, being Terry, coming over to her and giving her in her own words “a hug you never forget.” She remembers the trip as being a Kontiki Tour, over the farmlands then to Bunbury to pick up a pregnant woman. She remembers the doctor on board as being very ‘cruisey’, her words. Sal felt she and Gus were very well cared for and in very capable hands. Talk about laid back, after the patients were settled the doctor passed the time reading a book about famous plane crashes. It made them laugh.

When Sally phoned that night after Gus was admitted to PMH she was amazed because “Mum you wouldn’t believe it but Fiona Woods happened to be at the hospital”. Gus had third degree burns on his feet as well as burns to his hands, arms and legs and spent four weeks in PMH. There was every chance he would lose his toes on one foot. He didn’t. My daughter, after leaving the hospital and going home massaged and dressed his feet daily for a very long time.

Part of his treatment was a skin graft, steroid injections, spray on skin and countless trips back to PMH to see his wonderful team. It’s a joy to see Gus run like the wind, nothing stops him. The skin graft to his foot and the scars a reminder of just how very lucky he was. Recently he has been able to talk about it and thought his feet were terrible to look at. ‘No way’ we told Gus, ‘they’re your badge of honour’.
As his Lally said they’ll be real chick magnets!

Helen Hennessy - Esperance (top)


Christmas Flight
It was Christmas Day when I received the phone call that my father Mort was on his way to the Norseman Airport; he had been diagnosed as having a Pulmonary Oedema. My older brother was visiting for Christmas from Perth so he became Dad’s escort.

When he was wheeled out onto the tarmac the assessment took place and it was noted, that he was 94 years old, a fit, slim man who rode his bike 10km each day. Not only was he not on any medication, he had never been in a plane before. My father always said “if man was meant to fly surely he would have been given wings”

During the flight Mort asked if they were near Kambalda, the Pilot replied almost there and banked the plane so Dad could see. On arriving over Kalgoorlie the Pilot knowing that Dad was stabilized, asked had he seen the Super Pit and as he hadn’t, the Pilot replied by saying “It’s Christmas Day let’s take a look” and he banked the plane once again, giving my Dad the view of a lifetime and much pleasure.

My father and the family will never forget the spirit of Christmas shown by the Pilot, the Flying Doctor and Nurse who took care of my father and I am sure they would have wanted to be at home with their family on Christmas Day yet still they found time and compassion in their hearts.

Dad returned and lived out his life until he was 96 years old.

Deb Horan - Esperance (top)


Dizzy
For 20 years I'd had dizzy spells, first was two years apart from the second, and slowly they got more familiar, Doctors were told about it, they would say, gee that's not good, head scans, blood tests and blood pressure were done, nothing was found by usual tests.

I was 51 years old when, Thursday the 21st of May, 2015 at 2pm my wife and I were about to stop the car to gaze at the progress of our new home, when I felt the symptoms of a regular dizzy coming on, with about 15 to 20 seconds notice I was planning to stop the car, just as I put my foot on the brake my whole body gave up, to my wife I looked dead, it was horror to her, about 50 seconds went by before she pulled my head back, from then I began coming around, and went into my regular hot sweat which usually came after a dizzy.

She drove me straight to Albany Hospital, an hour after waiting I was admitted, various tests, last was a digital eco sound of the heart, they noticed I had what's called Aortic Stenosis, apparently I was born with 2 valve flaps instead of three, the Aortic tube was small and the heart is large.

The next day I was flown by Royal Flying Doctor to Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth for full diagnosis and to wait for heart surgery, many tests and preps for 11 days. During this time many student doctors and actual doctors (around 40) came to learn about the diagnosis of my Aortic Stenosis, they would listen to what was called a thrill, or heart murmur, noticed more lower right neck, main artery, this will help them all diagnose future Aortic Stenosis patience. Before I knew it, suddenly I was moved from bottom to top of the list in priority (all the time my wife was by my side where possible, however she had to drive up) the actual operation was something did not know about until I was in recovery.

The night after the operation was going so slow 5 minutes on the clock in front of me felt like it was an hour, the 6 hours from midnight to morning seemed to go on for a week, after 36 hour in ICU I was transferred to recovery, 7 days ironing in Warfarin and beater blocks into a on going pill collection, changes in diet and the way I used to do things before, but more so for a while until I'm fully recovered in 3 to 12 months. Penny has been the most awesome wife, to be separated is like taking our life away.

Released to stay in Perth for two weeks, after two days I visited the Doctor as requested by Fiona Stanley Hospital, I was feeling quite warm, sitting in front of the doctor, I said I was feeling weird, and asked for some water, a sip, then I went white, I was asked to lay on the table, some tests and checks found my Warfarin level at 7, the ambulance was called, Penny began stressing, off the Fiona Stanley Hospital again, soon after arrival, my surgeon came to my room to see me, he consulted with his assisting surgeon and decided to fast track me into theatre to have a drain put in to remove fluid from the heart sack, assuming there might be about 250mils, while I was being taken to theatre, I call out to my wife, "I'll be ok darling, I love you" my wife soon after went into meltdown and had alarms going off, they did tests on her, finding her heart pressure at 154, she was having heart palpitations, after all they didn't find any cure.

After my second surgery, I had a drain coming from my lower chest for three days which drained 250mils during that time, but in theatre, apparently they drained around 600mils, it was actually blood.

Released on the third day, waited in Perth another week and a half before going home by car with my wife driving.

My experience with the Royal Flying Doctor was awesome, there were two pilots and a nurse on board, the main pilot gave me his cap to wear while I was boarding the plane, because the sun was bright, they were so nice and friendly, very communicative, they had said they just came from Esperance after delivering a patient there.

I'd had dizzy spells for 20 years, (having to sit, hold on as the world spun, going in to a cold sweat, cleared up usually after 2 to 5 minutes) they became more popular over the years, all Doctors that were asked about this would say, gee that's not good, and had head scans done, no one checked the heart or for effects from the main blood vessels. All checks previously came up with no answers.

David Belfield - Albany (top)


Agonizing Pain 350km from Help
We were camped on the edge of Boonderoo Lake, east of Kalgoorlie, a balmy evening after a gorgeous sun set, we sat around the camp fire chatting and laughing as we enjoyed a tipple or two under the bright stars. We had travelled in convoy from Esperance a group of Probians with our tour leader Eric Swann.

We had taken the hat round to collect for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, little did we know that we were soon to be in need of that service. One of our group developed severe excruciating pain and it was decided that he should seek medical help. Attempts were made to call the RFDS Base to no avail, the two-way radio in the vehicle wasn’t strong enough.

Russell Swann and his children Tammy and Keith from Kannandah Station had joined the group and It was decided that they would drive the patient and his wife the 1 ½ hours drive to Kannandah Station along with the patient’s vehicle and trailer and the camping gear. Arriving at the Homestead which is 350km east of Kalgoorlie, they made contact with the RFDS Base, via the two-way radio, it was the most powerful of radios with a good Aerial.

The evacuation was set in place and the airstrip was prepared. Car lights shining onto the strip which meant the plane had to come in over the vehicle and the rest of the strip was lit with forty kerosene fuelled flares each side of the airstrip. If it is a bit windy these have to be ignited with an oxy acetylene torch to prevent them from blowing out, this wasn’t the case this time.

It was after midnight when the Flying Doctor flew in and collected our friend who was diagnosed as having Kidney Stones. The relief was unimaginable felt by all especially the patient when the plane came in, to land. A good example of no matter where we are there is help available by the Flying Doctor. An example that there is a need to keep the Doc flying, a need to keep that blanket of safety alive as one never knows what the future holds.

Helen Scott - Esperance (top)


Ann Blakely’s Memoirs of Rev John Flynn 1880 – 1951
Through Her Mother’s Eyes
Gwen Windle (nee McCubben) 1898 - 1990

Anne was Guest Speaker at the RFDS Esperance Auxiliary’s Christmas Dinner Meeting 2015

In 1919 at a Presbyterian Youth Camp my Mother, who was about to start nursing, met Rev John Flynn and her life was then changed forever. She was about to start her nursing training and after talking to her Rev Flynn said “When you have finished your training I would like you to be one of my outback nurses.

Many years later having completed both general and midwifery , having learnt how to mix and dispense medicines and able to take out teeth, off she went to Alice Springs, she was with another nurse and for some time there was no Doctor, so Mum had to deal with some incredible medical situations, but that is another story and beside very few of Flynn’s nurses remained, given when their term was up they were usually engaged, as you can imagine every young man in the district found a reason to visit the Hostel (Adelaide House).

Mum was no different, it was made easier for Dad as he had to look after the generator and lived next door. Mum and Dad always maintained contact with Flynn and he usually stayed at our home when visiting.

As you imagine I was privileged to grow up surrounded by people who had known Rev Flynn.  Flynn of the inland is legendary to people of the outback in the 1920’s 30’s on, he truly sought to put “A Mantle of Safety” over the outback. It was said at his funeral “Across the lonely places of the land he planted kindness and from the hearts of those who call those places home, he gathered love”.

Flynn was a very practical dreamer, he saw the vast isolation and loneliness of the outback and dreamed of improving it. He met with opposition from the Church authorities, but in 1911 Flynn commenced a two year term the “Smith of Duresk Mission” in South Australia,  journeying into inland Australia.

At Beltana in 1912 he was asked to undertake a fact finding journing into inland Australia, he mixed with the bush people and became even more convinced that, something had to be done to alleviate the physical, social and spiritual problems of the outback. As a result the Australian Inland Mission was born in 1912. As a result hospitals, Flying Doctor Service and many other services were born.

Flynn was a great observer of men and women and sort them out and then as an example persuaded men such as Rev Skipper Partridge, the much beloved, padre of the outback whom he met and challenged about the outback.

The other notable was Rev Fred McKay who became Flynn’s successor.  Flynn met him in 1933, while Fred was pastoring a church in Queensland, both Rev Partridge and McKay were highly educated and were looking at furthering their studies overseas but ended up spending their lives in service to the people of the outback.

Flynn was a dreamer but he was intensely practical, he was very skilled at mending clocks so often was seen sitting in the station homestead fixing a clock while talking and listening to the station folk. A very “politically incorrect” piece of advice he gave to his Padres was to take up pipe smoking as many a problem would be shared while you were getting your pipe ready.

For all of his time as head of the Australian Inland Mission he had to battle with church hierarchy who didn’t share his consuming love of the people of the outback. It was Flynn himself who paid for Alf Traeger to develop the pedal wireless. Ironically, Flynn’s photo is on the $20 note and when he died he had less than that. Flynn was above all a Christian Minister and along with all the practical things he did for the outback he and his padres, ministered to the folks of the outback. It is interesting to note that Flynn’s favourite bible passage was Isaiah 35 and in that chapter we find the words “He brought gladness and rejoicing to the wilderness and solitary places”.

When Flynn died every newspaper in Australia carried a eulogy. Flynn had expressed a wish to be buried in the shadow of Mt. Gillen, they had a huge service in Sydney and then his ashes were brought to Alice Springs. I can just remember the service, Rev Partridge conducted the service and the Flying Doctor plane dropped wreaths on Mt Gillen and for a few seconds there was a shadow of a cross on Mt Gillen.

My Mother told me that the outback came to a standstill as they remembered the man who had bought the “Mantle of Safety” to the outback.

Written by Ann Blakely –Esperance WA (top)


Life Member - The first bestowed
The Esperance Auxiliary is privileged to have Eric Swann the very first bestowed Life Member awarded in 1992. He became the inaugural President for the Esperance Auxiliary in 1996. Here is his story written by him.

I was born three or four months after the inaugural flight of the newly formed Flying Doctor Service which made its first flight out of Cloncurry in Queensland in 1928. My dad was a returned soldier from the First World War and had a soldier settler block in Western NSW. Hospitals and Doctors were readily available to us in this area so the advent of the FDS at this time meant little to us.

I had a fascination with the Inland of Australia and its history from an early age and being an avid reader, Ion Idriess was one of my favourite writers. This is where I read about “Flynn of the Inland” and the commencement of the Flying Doctor Service.

It was not until the year 1952 when I commenced as a jackeroo on a station on the Barcoo River in Western Queensland that I first came under the mantel of the Flying Doctor Service. We were not part of the Flying Doctor radio network but were very reliant on the medical service. At this time, 23 to 24 years after this first flight, there were many of the people in this area, who vividly remembered the period when there was not a Flying Doctor Service and so they supported it with a passion. They had constant reminders of this period with the numerous graves at most homesteads – for a large extent, graves of women and children.

I became very much involved in fund raising for the service almost immediately on my arrival in the district. Because a part of my job as a jackeroo was to keep the station books and do the monthly reports to Melbourne head office, people felt that I was the ideal candidate for position of secretary on several of the fundraising committees – the Gymkhana Club, the Camp Draft Club and the Race Club were my interests and these were all exclusively fundraising for the FDS.

I met Ruth not so long after I arrived in Queensland and a couple of years later we were married. The FDS was important beforehand but now with a wife and a growing family, it became more of a necessity. Apart from the emergency side of its operation, the service used to conduct monthly clinics with the doctor and sometimes a nurse to all the remote stations and towns throughout its network. All our four children were born under the flying doctor’s care. The one thing that became obvious to me at this time was that without the backup of the FDS I would not have considered marrying, having a family and living in that environment. This was a country subject to floods which cut people off from the outside world for weeks at a time with roads which were then only dirt tracks.

Being the home of the Service, and thanks to the huge community support, the development of the Service in Queensland was probably well ahead of other states at this time. They were flying 3 engines Drover aircraft which were considered the safest aircraft in that class available at the time. However they were a long way short of the ultimate design for emergency ambulance work and it was to be a good number of years before adaptation to the fuselage of future planes were made for easier loading and unloading of patients on stretchers.

I can recall loading a stockman with a badly smashed pelvis onto a Drover and we had to take him off the stretcher to get him through the door and into the aircraft with the accompanying screams of agony. The pilots for the Flying Doctor Service in Queensland at this time came from Trans Australian Airways and after they served a contract for some years, they were automatically upgraded to more sophisticated aircraft within the airline. Likewise, doctors who undertook contracts with the service were, I believed, sponsored to higher qualifications by the Government of Queensland on completion of their contract. Some of these doctors actually stayed with the service for many years because it appealed to them.

Towards the end of 1962, Ruth and I and family left Queensland and moved to WA when I became developmental manager for a new pastoral property on the western edge of the Nullarbor Plain, some 350 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie, straddling the Trans Australian railway. I was working for a SA company and they set a dead line to have the property developed to the stage where it started producing. As a consequence, we had a fairly big staff for those first few years of development. Some of the contractors had their families with them, so the problem of medical cover so far from a town became of prime importance.

In selecting the homestead area site, the provisions of a good airstrip, close to the area was one of the main requirements, not only for the regular visits by the Company personnel but with the use of the Flying Doctor Service in min. I was able to arrange for Kanandah to be included on the regular monthly clinic visits by the doctor to the Transline/Eyre highway settlements. It was a case of advising the Kalgoorlie base a day or so in advance we had patients to be included in these clinics.

Of course they were always available for emergency medical evacuations. Our only communication for many years was through the two way radio via the Kalgoorlie Base. Instead of phone calls it was a matter of sending telegrams. Everyone heard everyone’s else’s conversations, medical, personnel and business, but once we became used to it, there was a greater sense of community within the network and we automatically switched off mentally if it did not concern us. When the standard use of the telephone finally came to these remote areas, people found that they were back into a more isolated existence than when they had only the two way radio.

Another great asset which grew out of the two way radio was the advent of School of the Air. This was a huge assistance to Mums and Governesses teaching children with the aid of correspondence school lessons. Successful was this form of teaching, that most remote area correspondence school kids did very well when they went onto do their secondary schooling through regular channel. Associated with the two way radio and growing out of School of the Air was the ability to conduct meetings among the adults on organisations as CWA, SOTA Parents and Citizens, Isolated parents Association and even some P & C Meetings.

Being a new community and very isolated not only be distance but with little in the way of roads, the Nullarbor community seldom to together on a social basis. With this in mind and again because of my love of horses and sports associated with them, Ruth and I started the Kanandah Gymkhana, holding it during the May school holidays. It only took a year or two to catch on before this became a major event for the district and indeed beyond the Nullarbor. Right from the start we made the gymkhana a fundraising event for the Flying Doctor Service and we were probably the single biggest fundraiser for the service for the 19 years we ran it. So much so that one of the new planes was named “Kanandah” in recognition of the fundraising of the Kanandah Gymkhana Club.

The gymkhana became very popular with urban and city dwellers as it gave them a taste of station life which is so foreign to the bulk of the population. We really got to the stage of trying to hold numbers to a manageable level by using ‘invitation only’ contacts. However we always had a number of visitors out of the blue arrive and expect to be accommodated and fed. Ruth’s wonderful skills in handling these emergencies and indeed the overall responsibilities of organising the meals over the three days of gymkhana visitors made her something of a legend on the Nullarbor.

In 1972, people of the Nullarbor Pastoral community asked me to nominate as a councillor of the Eastern Goldfields Section of what was now the Royal Flying Doctor Service – the Royal prefix was granted by the Queen in 1954. I was duly elected becoming the only pastoralist on the council with the rest of the councillors, for the most part being Kalgoorlie businessmen and mining executives. The development of the pastoral industry on the Nullarbor since the early 1960’s presented new challenges to the Section and their little understanding of what was being required in the way of medical services in the pastoral sector by these members. Even though the pastoralists of the Goldfields had need for the service, they generally had better access to medical services and were not concerned in the administrative side of the service.

The Eastern Goldfields Section of the Flying Doctor Service was one of three Sections operation in Western Australia at this time. The Western Australian Section was based in Jandakot and operated from Carnarvon and Meekatharra north, whilst the Victorian Section, which did not need this service in Victoria, undertook to form and run a service in the Kimberley with bases at Wyndham and Derby. Throughout the rest of Australia, there was only the one section in each state.

The EG Section grew out of the Goldfields Aerial Medical Service started mainly by the pilot George Lewis in 1934. In 1935, after a visit by the early flying doctor, Dr Alan Vickers thought was given to joining the Federal Section. The emerging sections throughout Australia had decided to present a combined front to the Federal Government when seeking financial assistance and so had formed the Federal Council of the Flying Doctor Service. The Eastern Goldfields Section was formed and became affiliated with the Federal Council in 1937.

It was a bit of an uphill battle to get my message across for the first couple of years on council, but then for some reason there was an upheaval at the annual general meeting in 1972, with most of the council being replaced and Mick Cotter ex Federal Member being elected President. I was elected Senior Vice President and held this position till I moved to Esperance in 1991. With Mick Cotter at the helm, we started to develop services within the Section equal to the standard of other sections throughout Australia.

As senior vice president, I became one of the delegates to the Federal Council for most years whilst on the Council. I was also convenor of the Communications Committee and delegate to the Federal Communications Committee over the later years. Though I was asked to nominate for the position of President a couple of times, as a manager for a pastoral company and so far from Kalgoorlie, I just could not give the necessary time and attention to this important position. I was happy to be there to back up the president and take meetings on the odd occasions when he was not there.

Not long before I joined the Council, the single engine Cessna in use at the time was upgraded to a twin engine second hand Beechcraft Baron. Then in the first year or so, a state of the art new Piper Navajo twin engine aircraft was purchased. Instead of being served by the Kalgoorlie General Practitioners for emergencies and clinic runs, we employed at first, one doctor and our own flight nurses, with our doctor numbers later increasing to two on full time. Mick’s experience as a politician gave him an insight as the where to go for financial assistance within government both State and Federal and so many more doors were opened for us.

As is obvious from what I have written, the performance of our section and indeed the other sections throughout Australia improved step by step over the years to the point where we were using much more sophisticated aircraft and had after many years of urging from our medical committees moved into pressurised planes. This move of course came at great cost and was only possible with more corporate and government assistance.

However to the people in the bush the greatest step forward, was the ability to make night landings and have the pilots and the planes to the standard to do this. It never ceased to amaze me how often a serious emergency occurred at night and without this capability to land, treat and evacuate patients, many a stressful night was spent awaiting daylight. The most magical sound, when we had an emergency, we to hear the distant drone of the RFDS plane at night and then the sight when they turned on their landing lights to make their landing approach.

Because we had a safe airstrip and were equipped with a very good set of landing flares, we were used by the Service to train and induct new pilots in night navigation and night landings. I cannot recall us having more than a dozen night emergencies over the years whilst we were at Kannandah, but were so thankful in having that service available to us.

Whilst on the station, it required a round trip of 700 kilometres to attend meetings each month and I had Ruth there to assist with the driving when the meetings ended about midnight. We made the journey home to be there by daylight to start the days work for years so I always felt that any recognition I got should have been shared with Ruth.

At the end of 1991, we retired to Esperance and I resigned from the Council in 1992. Our daughter, Jenny Kroonstuiver then nominated for the Council, became president and also the federal delegate.

After my resignation from Council which I submitted in the early months of 1992, they, I understand, felt that my twenty two years, service on the Council needed some recognition. So, at their September meeting I was invited to attend and was presented with Life Membership. Over the years the use of life memberships had not been considered but the Council now felt they should look at this for retiring long term serving councillors who had been good contributors. There are now many names appearing on the Honour Board at Kalgoorlie RFDS Base, including that of my daughter Jenny.

My nomination was not because I had offered more important work, but the luck of waiting in the wings when they decided on this practice. Never the less I am very proud of my appointment.

After our retirement to Esperance and with Jenny’s instigation as the Council president, the Esperance Auxiliary of the Eastern Goldfields Section was formed and I became the foundation president. The need for the Service to the town was well recognised right back as far as 1935 so the fundraising efforts of the Auxiliary were very successful right from its inception. We had a wonderful membership of active and standby members and it was an easy job as chairman of such a group.

In year 2000, I was nominated as one of the candidates for Citizen of the Year for Esperance on the basis of my RFDS involvement, was unsuccessful but did feel a bit of a fraud as the nomination should have been the Auxiliary as a whole.

Because RFDS played such a big part in the emotional chapters of our lives, the RFDS almost became a religion to Ruth and myself. It allowed us to live the life we loved with medical security for our family. It saw to our children’s births, through any illnesses and it provided the wonderful aid of School of the Air. And last but not least, it gave our eldest son his one chance of being saved when he was fatally injured as a 17 year old. If I lived and worked to support the Service till I was 100, I would still be in debt to the RFDS.

Obituary - Eric Winton Swann 1929-2015
A true gentleman, a dear friend and mentor to many and when Eric spoke we all listened. He had such a wealth of knowledge and a great sense of humour and we never tired of his many stories. Greatly missed by all who knew him.

Eric Swann Life Member – Esperance (top)


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